A friend of mine is an inveterate collector of stuff. But he's also, shall we say, pennywise.
For some months now, he's been dabbling with Freecycle.org, a social network of sorts consisting of people around the country who are looking to pass along things for which they no longer have a use. The group claims about 3.8 million users, organized in local groups (moderated locally and hosted on Yahoo).
Some of the things offered through Freecycle are slightly worse for the wear (like the boom box my friend picked up that didn't have a working CD player but for which he prized the simple FM radio for use by the pool). Some things are rather large, like hot water heaters and such. Yes, no kidding. Value is in the eye of the beholder, no?
The idea is pretty simple. You have something you don't want, you post a notice with the local chapter. (There are north of 10,000 active members in my very own Bergen County, New Jersey.) Likewise, you can peruse the list for stuff you might be hankering after. You like something, you arrange to pick it up. Vice versa for stuff you want to unload.
I don't think my friend started using this site out of any kind of environmental obligation. To him, this is a convenient service that saves him money. But, of course, Freecycle has the added bonus of extending the life expectancy of things that might not have a value for you any more, but that might have a value for you or me or your neighbor. Like those stuffed animals I've been saving for years and years for sentimenal reasons. On second thought, ew, dust mites.
Wikipedia cites these other networks as Freecycle alternatives:
- FreeSharing.org (which reaches about 350,000 members and also offers this resource page)
- The Twin Cities Free Market from Eureka Recycling (which has actually developed a franchise model)
I really like the idea that someone might have a use for something that's just gathering dust in my closet. After all, how much money to you REALLY make at garage sales?